Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It, too, is partly set in the rural Tanzania I remember from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter Four, scene two: Dealing with Max and Sophie.
I spent the next couple of weeks developing my strategy. I held a number of video conferences with allies in the group, and learned all I could about the way Papa had been organising things. I was beginning to learn that what I had been doing in Dar was but a very small part, even of what was happening in Africa.
I heard on the grapevine; okay, Sophie told me; that Max’s mother had died, and that she was in Blighty for the funeral. Max herself had left word that she would be popping in during her stay.
She arrived one morning, just as I was in the middle of hoisting myself out of bed and down to my desk. Seeing her wrong-footed me for an instant, and I almost ended up a tangle of arms and legs all over the floor.
“Can I help you, Hannice?” I asked.
“No thanks, old bean; have to do as much for myself as I can. Can’t depend on someone always being there to help me.”
“How’s the physio coming along?” she asked.
“Marvellous, your Sophie. Talented hands. Can’t say I’m noticing much difference down below, but Dr Harry says it’s more about preventing atrophy than anything I’d notice. Good fun, though.”
“That’s great, Hannice, although I think she’s more your Sophie than mine, these days. Not that I mind. For the time being, what’s best for you is more important than what’s easiest for me. Don’t let it go to your head, though. You know how quickly I can change my mind.”
“Speaking of changing mind, old stick, have you thought any more about my suggestions?”
“Matter of fact, I have,” she said, and brought me up to date about her Mum’s death, and her subsequent chat with Della. Della’s hold over her was based on a threat to reveal to her mother something that would have come to her as no surprise. No more mother equals no more threat equals no more control.
“So, what are you saying now?” I asked.
“Now,” she responded, “I am no longer involved with TanzCap, and all the hassle with Fonseca and the others, so I’m free to found and run KIT for you, if you still want me to. Of course, it will depend on what kind of package Knight Trading offers me. Since I’ve cut off my income from Della, and put my own business on hold, I have to give some thought to where my money is coming from.”
“I’ll talk with Emily at HR and work out an offer for you. That will be just for your role as CEO of KIT. Once I take the reins of the group, other positions could well be offered, together with an appropriately enhanced package.”
Max’s only reaction was a raised eyebrow.
“When are you planning to go back?” I asked.
“Probably early next week,” she replied, “present company excluded, there’s nothing holding me here, and I’m keen to get things started there. I’m also eager, of course, to distance myself from TanzCap, so I can start talking with Paul on a different footing.”
“Good egg,” I said, “Knew you’d hit the ground running.”
“Yeah, thanks,” she said, dismissively. “Listen, I’m expecting Della’s man around tomorrow afternoon with the paperwork releasing me from her talons. When can you get paperwork to me so I can get the ball rolling on the KIT front?”
“Should be able to get it to you by Sunday pm, if not earlier. I’ll get things started as soon as you leave. Not that I’m trying to get rid of you, of course.”
“I didn’t think for a moment that you were. Don’t send them, I’ll pop in on Sunday afternoon. We should probably have a long chat before I go back, to make sure we’re both clear what you want me to do.”
It’s amazing how, when you’re stuck in hospital, days ran into one another. It’s equally disturbing how, although I seemed to be active and busy every day, I couldn’t point to many things I had actually achieved. It’s the banality of routine. For twenty-odd years, I thought I liked routine; thought I needed it to have any sort of control over my life. Suddenly, sitting in the hospital ward, seeing the same people at the same times every day; doing the same things at the same times every day, it dawned on me just how unfulfilling, unsatisfying and mind-numbingly dull routine could be.
The only breaks from the humdrum daily cycle were the occasional calls from Max. I never knew on what day or at what time she would call, and her calls invariably presented me with a new intellectual challenge.
One afternoon, Max called to update me on developments at her end. I grabbed the opportunity to turn the tables and update her on my thinking.
“Made some decisions, old girl,” I said.
“Great,” she replied, “do you want to tell me about them, or should I try to guess?”
“Dr Harry says he can discharge me after the weekend. He’s happy that Sophie can keep up the physio at home, and he will want to see me once a month. That means I can get out of this damned place. First thing I want to do is to come out to Nocturne; give you a bit of support with Jaxson and the local boys.”
“You don’t need to do that, Hannice, but it will be good to see you. I’ll have a ground-floor bedroom made up for you, Sophie can use the guest room, where I am at the moment, and I’ll move through to the master bedroom.”
“Surprised you’ve not done that already, but good thinking, anyway. Upstairs bedroom definite no-no for me.”
I had never been one to wish time away, but I found myself longing for the week and the weekend to be over.
Monday morning came and with it, at 10am sharp, Sophie arrived. After a briefing from Dr Harry, we piled ourselves and my accoutrements into the limo that I had arranged, and set off for Knight Towers, where I would be living. Papa had been mobility-impaired for some years, and had arranged for a number of modifications to the big house; modifications like widened doors, ramps and even a passenger lift, that would be helpful for me. Sophie had agreed to become my full-time PA, physio and, when necessary, carer. She had been reluctant to give up the home that she and her late husband, Dave, had rented for many years, but finally agreed to take a rent-free apartment in Knight Towers. She was a shrewd negotiator, extracting from me an attractive rewards package, as well as my agreement that the lease for the apartment wouldn’t be tied to her employment with me.